Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 25, 2021

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 25, 2021

The United States Congress passed the Legal Tender Act on February 25, 1862, allowing the government to pay its bills with paper money it printed.

On February 25, 1870, Hiram Rhoades Revels (R-Missippi) was sworn in as the first African-American Congressman in history.

In 1867, the first Reconstruction Act was passed by a Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, dividing the South into five military districts and granting suffrage to all male citizens, regardless of race. A politically mobilized African American community joined with white allies in the Southern states to elect the Republican party to power, which in turn brought about radical changes across the South. By 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party, thanks in large part to the support of African American voters.

On January 20, 1870, Hiram R. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature to fill the Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. On February 25, two days after Mississippi was granted representation in Congress for the first time since it seceded in 1861, Revels was sworn in.

On February 25, 1876, the first Georgia state law against abortion was passed.

On February 25, 1999, Johnny Isakson was sworn into Congress from the Sixth District, a seat vacated by the resignation of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Whitfield County Voters are going to the polls in two elections scheduled for March 16, 2021, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Two online forums will give Whitfield County residents the chance to learn more about the candidates and the referendum on the March 16 special election ballot.

At noon, the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area host what organizers describe as a “roundtable discussion” of a measure that would give the county board of commissioners power to create tax allocation districts (TADs). The discussion will livestreamed on the League’s Facebook page and archived there for those who cannot watch it live.

TADs freeze the value at which a property can be taxed for general revenue. Taxes collected on additional value created by improvements to the property are dedicated to pay for infrastructure, public artwork or other amenities to attract a developer or developers to that area.

The special election also features a race to fill the unexpired term of the late Roger Crossen for the District 3 seat on the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners. The winner will finish Crossen’s unexpired term, which runs through the end of 2022. District 3 is essentially the northwest part of the county.

Advance voting continues Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until March 12 at the Board of Elections office in the county courthouse.

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 23

Noonish Senate Rules Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
7:30 AM Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB
10:00 AM Senate FLOOR SESSION (LD 23) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM Senate Public Safety – Mezz 1
1:00 PM Senate Banking and Financial Institutions – 307 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Transportation – 450 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs – Mezz 1
3:30 PM Senate Science and Technology – 307 CLOB
3:30 PM Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities – 450 CAP
4:45 PM Senate Government Oversight – 450 CAP

8:00 AM HOUSE Education Academic Support Subcommittee – 506 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT – 606 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES – 341 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD23) – House Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE EDUCATION – 606 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE JUDICIARY – 132 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM – 341 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Regulatory Subcommittee – 415 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE TRANSPORTATION – 506 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS – 606 CLOB
3:00 PM HOUSE ENERGY, UTILITIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS – 341 CAP

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SB 193 – Ad Valorem Taxation of Property; requiring that mobile homes procure and display decals; grant counties the option(FIN-53rd)

SB 105 – State-Wide Probation System; conditions and procedures under which probation may be terminated early; revise (Substitute)(JUDY-17th)

SB 143 – Mechanics and Materialmen; waiver of lien and labor or material bond rights; conform a reference within a statutory form (JUDY-37th)

SB 159 – Elementary and Secondary Education; provision relating to student transportation; revise (Substitute)(ED&Y-51st)

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Structured Rule

HB 34 – Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact Act; enact (Substitute)(RegI-Belton-112th)

HB 43 – Motor vehicles; require registration application forms to include optional information regarding certain conditions which may interfere with a registrant’s ability to communicate (Substitute)(MotV-Cantrell-22nd)

HB 141 – Criminal procedure; requirements for awards made from Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund to medical service providers; provide (JudyNC-Gaines-117th)

HB 218 – Crimes and offenses; weapons carry license reciprocity in this state; expand (Substitute)(PS&HS-Ballinger-23rd)(Rules Committee Substitute LC 39 2943S)

HB 442 – Domestic relations; management of social media in parenting plans; provide (JuvJ-Collins-68th)

Structured Rule

HB 63 – Alternative ad valorem tax; motor vehicles; revise definition of fair market value (Substitute)(W&M-Blackmon-146th)

HB 86 – Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act; enact (Substitute)(ED&T-Stephens-164th)

HR 119 – Senator Johnny Isakson Bridge; Chatham County; dedicate (Trans-Ralston-7th)


Governor Brian Kemp suspended Paulding Judicial Circuit District Attorney Donald Richard “Dick” Donovan, under Executive Order 02.24.21.02.

From the AJC:

The 75-year-old Donovan, who had served as DA since 2010, was indicted last week on charges of bribery, violation of oath by public officer and two counts of false swearing. The allegations stem from his relationship with a top female staff member. He was arrested on Monday and spent just over an hour in jail before posting $2,500 bond.

Following an investigation by the GBI, Attorney General Chris Carr’s office presented Donovan’s case to a Paulding grand jury. After the indictment, Carr’s office requested that an arrest warrant be issued for Donovan and sent the indictment to Kemp.

 

Senate Bill 148 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) passed the State House, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

The 2021 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians would be modeled after an advisory council of the same name the General Assembly created in 2010.

That iteration of the council led to tax reforms that eliminated Georgia’s “birthday” tax on motor vehicles, phased out the state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing and expanded an income tax exemption for married couples filing jointly.

“Georgia did something that worked really well back in 2010,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, told his Senate colleagues Wednesday. “It’s time to do that again.”

The council will study Georgia’s tax structure during the course of this year and report its findings and recommendations to the speaker and lieutenant governor no later than Jan. 10, 2022.

The Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure, a panel Hufstetler’s bill also would create, would then develop the council’s recommendations into one or more bills to be introduced into the House during next year’s legislative session

House Bill 286 by State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) passed the State House, according to the Associated Press via the Athens Banner Herald.

House Bill 286 passed 101-69 in a largely party-line vote, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. It now goes to the state Senate for more debate.

The proposal would ban cities and counties from cutting spending on police departments by more than 5% in a year, with some limited exceptions such as revenue loss.

“Defunding the police is a dangerous idea that would harm those that most need protection and put victims at risk,” said Republican Rep. Houston Gaines of Athens, the bill’s chief sponsor.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

Speaking from the House floor on Wednesday, Gaines called policies to reduce funding for police a “radical idea” that would put police officers in danger and slow response times for emergencies.

“This legislation sends a strong message that we support our law enforcement officers and we will never defund police here in Georgia,” Gaines said. “When we have local governments that are out of control and putting lives at risk, we have to step in.”

“The efforts to transfer funding from police departments is about addressing the root causes we are desperate to address,” said state Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta. “This bill would shut down the necessary discourse leaders are having with their communities.”

Opposition to the bill also came from the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which represent city and county governments and argued police funding should be left to local officials.

Senate Bill 89 by State Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) passed the Senate and would create a position of  Chief Elections Assistance Officer in the office of the Secretary of State, according to AccessWDUN.

“Senate Bill 89 provides assistance for jurisdictions or counties that are having difficulty processing their elections ballots,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, who sponsored the bill. Miller represents the 49th District, which covers Gainesville.

“For instance, if they’re a county on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, where their absentee ballots have grown five and six fold – we’ve seen that throughout the state – they’re having to process an exponentially larger number of ballots with the same number people working,” he said. “So Senate Bill 89 would provide for assistance for some of these counties.”

From the AJC:

Under SB 89, the state board would establish criteria for “low-performing” local offices based on previous election law violations, voter “inconvenience” due to poor administration, departure from best practices and other criteria.

If low-performing jurisdictions failed to improve, the state board could suspend the local board or probate judge and appoint one or more people to replace them. The bill would allow the suspended local officials to seek reinstatement, but it does not put a time limit on the suspensions. That would be up to the State Election Board.

The bill also would create an “elections assistance officer” in the secretary of state’s office. The officer would be responsible for training poll workers and providing other assistance to local election officials.

House Bil 593 by State Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Warner Robins) would cut income taxes and passed out of Committee, according to the AJC.

House Bill 593, sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, is backed by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and it is being moved quickly to meet a deadline for bills to pass at least one chamber to remain alive for the 2021 session. That deadline is expected to be set for late next week.

By reducing the amount of income taxed, House Bill 593 would cut what’s owed by millions of Georgians who use the standard deduction when they fill out their returns.

“We are doing some tax relief without a lot of moving parts,” Blackmon said. “I think if we are able to move this forward, giving some people some tax relief would be good right now.”

While the tax cut would be relatively small — less than $100 for a married couple filing jointly — Blackmon told colleagues it would cost the state between $100 million and $150 million a year. And, particularly if Congress passes a massive new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package — which would include more state aid — a much larger state tax cut may be on the way.

Clarke and Oconee county jury trials are planned to resume in March, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

Superior Court Judge Eric Norris, chief judge of the Western Judicial Circuit, announced Wednesday that jury trials will resume, with the Supreme Court of Georgia expected to approve the resumption of trials statewide next month.

“We’ll summon more people than normal to ensure we’ll have the prerequisite number of people to sit on the juries,” Norris said. “We’ve had some folks out there (in jail) for at least a year who were ready for trial in March last year when everything shut down.”

Norris said jury trials are set to start March 22 in Oconee County and March 29 in Clarke.

Muscogee County may hold a Special Election for Board of Education District 2 on June 15, 2021, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

[Mike] Edmondson was the District 2 representative on the nine-member school board when he died from cancer Feb. 10.

Nancy Boren, the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration director, shared with the Ledger-Enquirer what she expects to recommend to the elections board during its March 4 meeting. She plans to ask the elections board to vote on approving the following schedule to fill the school board’s vacancy:

• April 6-8 for the possible dates that candidates can register to qualify on the ballot.
• May 17 for the voter registration deadline.
• May 24 for the first day of early voting in the City Services Center and the first day to issue mail-in ballots.
• June 11 for the last day to request a mail-in ballot.
•  June 15 for in-person voting at the five voting precincts in District 2: Britt David, Cornerstone, St. Mark, St. Peter and Wynnbrook. The elections board will be identifying a new location for the St. Mark precinct, Boren said.

A six pack of Zima hard lemonade and a pack of smokes is the price of an alleged vote bought in a Blythe City Council election, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

State Elections Board Chief Investigator Frances Watson told the board Wednesday that Daniel Martin was seen at a Blythe convenience store buying a vote for mayoral candidate Phillip Stewart.

Martin was seen purchasing a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and a pack of cigarettes for Jacob Odom, who was under 21 at the time, Watson said.

Martin is accused of buying Odom the items in exchange for a vote for Stewart in that day’s election on March 20, 2018, she said.

Augusta Circuit District Attorney Jared Williams’ office recently referred Martin’s indictment to the attorney general’s office to be referred to another judicial circuit – because Williams was Martin’s attorney before winning the Nov. 3 election.

Martini won a three-way race for city council in November.

With the 2018 indictment pending, Martin would challenge Cordova in a May 2018 special city council election that ended in a tie.

U.S. Representative Andrew Clyde (R-Athens) will fight a citation and fine for allegedly bypassing metal detectors at the U.S. Capitol, according to AccessWDUN.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde said Wednesday he has officially appealed his fine for refusing to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, a step he said is necessary before he files a federal suit challenging the fine.

“The magnetometers are still there,” Clyde said. “This was all intentional on my part because I had to have legal standing in order to challenge the unconstitutionality of what the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi are doing.”

Earlier in February, Clyde and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas were fined $5,000 for refusing the screening. Clyde argues that the metal detectors are unconstitutional, citing a clause in the U.S. Constitution that he said prohibits representatives from being impeded or arrested when enter the House floor except for major crimes such as treason.

Clyde, who represents the Ninth Congressional District in Northeast Georgia, made his comments during an appearance Wednesday on “Morning Talk with Martha Zoller.”

Columbia County public schools will hold outdoor proms, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue a decision soon on the proposed Camden County Spaceport, according to The Brunswick News.

Athens lawyer Kevin Lang said approval of a launch site operator’s license does not guarantee a rocket will ever be sent into orbit from the site.

“The safety requirements for obtaining a launch site operator’s license are much less rigorous than those for actual rocket launches,” Lang said. “The FAA’s threshold for casualties moves from one casualty in 10,000 launches for the site operator’s license to one casualty in one million launches for each launch license.”

Lang, a Little Cumberland Island property owner, said the insurance for commercial rocket companies will be prohibitively high because trajectories will take rockets over homes and people.

“Why would a commercial rocket company pay to insure that risk when they can just go launch from a spaceport that does not require overflight of people and homes?” he asked. “There are plenty of idle launch pads located directly on the ocean around the United States.”

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